Toll-like receptor 4 modulation influences human neural stem cell proliferation and differentiation

Cell Death Dis. 2018 Feb 15;9(3):280. doi: 10.1038/s41419-017-0139-8.


Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) activation is pivotal to innate immunity and has been shown to regulate proliferation and differentiation of human neural stem cells (hNSCs) in vivo. Here we study the role of TLR4 in regulating hNSC derived from the human telencephalic-diencephalic area of the fetal brain and cultured in vitro as neurospheres in compliance with Good Manifacture Procedures (GMP) guidelines. Similar batches have been used in recent clinical trials in ALS patients. We found that TLR2 and 4 are expressed in hNSCs as well as CD14 and MD-2 co-receptors, and TLR4 expression is downregulated upon differentiation. Activation of TLR4 signaling by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) has a positive effect on proliferation and/or survival while the inverse is observed with TLR4 inhibition by a synthetic antagonist. TLR4 activation promotes neuronal and oligodendrocyte differentiation and/or survival while TLR4 inhibition leads to increased apoptosis. Consistently, endogenous expression of TLR4 is retained by hNSC surviving after transplantation in ALS rats or immunocompromised mice, thus irrespectively of the neuroinflammatory environment. The characterization of downstream signaling of TLR4 in hNSCs has suggested some activation of the inflammasome pathway. This study suggests TLR4 signaling as essential for hNSC self-renewal and as a novel target for the study of neurogenetic mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / metabolism
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / surgery
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Male
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neural Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Neural Stem Cells / transplantation
  • Neurogenesis*
  • Rats, Transgenic
  • Signal Transduction
  • Spheroids, Cellular
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1 / genetics
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / metabolism*


  • TLR4 protein, human
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1